Fiction, horror

The Rag doll

First shared on #ArtoonsInn

Atmaram Nana was alone at home. Having lost his wife, Supriya, two years back, he stayed with his son’s family at their house in the town of Kankavli, in the Kokan area of Maharashtra.

Atmaram was very proud that he had been able to buy this house from the original owners, the Nene’s when he was quite young. His son Raghuram, Raghuram’s wife, Revati and their 6-year-old son, Rahul had gone to Mumbai to attend the wedding of one of their relatives from Revati’s side.

Atmaram Nana was quite sprightly even at the age of 72. He had kept himself in good health by gardening every day, in their small little garden, his darling cat, Mani, following him everywhere.

Today, Atmaram was feeling quite lonely. On top of that, he had not been able to sleep properly. The creaking sounds from the attic had been quite loud during the night and Atmaram blamed it on the withering timber.

He decided to investigate. Anything to pass the time. As he made his way up, he put on a cloth mask on his nose, to protect himself from the dust and cobwebs.

On reaching the top, he crinkled his eyes to see better in the darkness. Then he reached for the light switch and put on the light.

Like most of the households in the town, the attic was used as a storage place for drums of rice and wheat. And where there is food, rats are bound to follow. This is where Mani made herself useful.

Crouching to avoid hitting his head against the low ceiling, Atmaram made his way across the attic, his footsteps causing swirls of dust to rise and then settle back on the attic floor. Most of the floor was occupied by various household items like a broken chair, Rahul’s childhood schoolbag, his broken toys, old utensils and the like, which ideally should have been disposed of to some scrap dealer.

Suddenly Mani screamed, “Meowww…” and something swung down from the ceiling, hit Atmaram in the face, making him lose his balance and fall. Fortunately, not much harm was done except for soiling of his clothes.

Looking up to see what had hit him in his face, he saw a rag doll, it’s head held to its body by a few threads, hanging upside down from the ceiling. Perhaps belonging to Rahul he thought; though he could not remember anyone gifting or buying a doll for Rahul. Cursing Raghuram for placing the doll on the ceiling, he espied a tin trunk in the corner where he had fallen.

Like his cat, Atmaram was overcome with curiosity. What would this trunk carry? What memories will it hold? And he had time to kill.

He saw a lock on the trunk. His memory scanned through the recesses of his mind, but couldn’t remember whether he had the key for it or not. So he took the next available option, reached for the spade lying in another corner of the attic and hammered on the lock. In a few strokes, it gave way.

All this while, Mani was doing a big din with her meowing, Atmaram couldn’t fathom why.

As he prised open the trunk, Mani fell silent. In fact, she jumped inside the trunk and started her sniffing routine. Atmaram gently picked her up and put her down outside.

Inside was his old camera! And some photo albums. For the next few minutes, he got lost in his past, for the photo albums held many memories, especially of his wife, Supriya and their child, Raghuram.

Raghuram and his family were back from Mumbai the next day, a Sunday morning. Once they had settled down Atmaram placed the camera on the table. Rahul was sitting on his lap.“Wow! Nana, that’s your favourite camera. Where was it all these days?” exclaimed Raghuram with surprise.

Like a person who has been gifted a new smartphone when he least expected it, Atmaram’s eyes were twinkling.

“You know, it still has a film in it, I think it must be half used. Oh, how I loved this camera. It is a Rolleiflex! It had been gifted to me by my uncle, Sakharam kaka. I understand he bought it in Mumbai….no, Bombay, in those olden days” the words rolled off Atmaram’s tongue in his excitement.

Raghuram was happy to see his father so happy. He had not seen him so enthusiastic and talkative for a long time.

“But why did you suddenly stop using this camera? I faintly remember you using it when I was but a child”

“I don’t know. Actually, I don’t remember it. Why did I stop using?”Atmaram tried to recall but in vain. All the while his fingers were busy in re-familiarising themselves with the various buttons and knobs of the camera.

As he pressed a knob, the lens side slid open. With shivering fingers, Atmaram prised open the side and the lens protruded out, sliding on the bed so formed. This was the zoom-in zoom-out feature of the camera.

With child-like excitement, he took the camera near his face to look into the viewfinder. He pointed the camera at Raghuram, who was busy giving a false smile. The viewfinder was a little yellowed now but he saw something hanging from the ceiling in the background, where Raghuram was standing.

All this while, Mani was making a cacophony, looking at Nana.

But when he put aside the camera to see what it was behind Raghuram…there was nothing. Again he tried to click his son’s photo but the button would not budge. And the apparition remained in the frame, though he could not pinpoint what it was. Perhaps a spec of dust?

“I think that’s why I stopped using the camera. It’s not working. And who will repair it in a small town like Kankavli?”

“No worries Nana. So what if it’s not working now. We are the proud owners of an antique camera like Rolleiflex. And let’s develop the film inside. At least we will be able to re-live some old memories”, so saying Raghuram took the camera from his father to retrieve the film.

However, he was not able to do so. “Call that photographer, Aniket. He should be able to retrieve” advised Atmaram.

“I will do one thing. I will take the camera tomorrow while going to the office and drop it off with Aniket. In evening, I will get it home with the developed film”.

The next day Raghuram came home in the evening with the camera and the developed prints.As soon a Raghuram entered, Mani became agitated. The hair on its body stood on end; she arched her back and bounded off, out of the house.

But Raghuram hardly registered it, he was eager to show the photos to his father. In his haste to come home, he had not yet seen the prints and wanted to observe his father’s reactions to the old photos, which had not yet been seen by anyone.

There were total of 10 photos. Nana was so happy to see his young wife, Supriya smiling into the camera. In some, she was alone, while in some she was carrying the child, Raghuram.Those were the days! Reminisced Nana fondly. Raghuram was watching the varied emotions fleeting across Nana’s face.

The last few photos were from this very house. It seemed to be someone’s birthday.Then Nana remembered. It was Raghuram’s 5th or 6th birthday. It was the first birthday to be celebrated in this house.

Nana remembered; he had bought the house from the Nene’s. He had been lucky. The Nene’s had sold it off to him in haste and at less than the market rate of that time, and Nana had been so happy about this unexpected windfall. Before shifting to Kankavli, Nana had been staying in the interiors of Malvan and had made enough money from his fisheries business.

After selling it off to him, the Nene’s had left Kankavli for good.The eighth, ninth and the last photo caught Nana’s attention. For standing behind a posing Raghuram, was a girl who appeared to be slightly older than the child Raghuram.Nana did not recall any such girl visiting their house. But it could be the failing memory of an old man. She must have been someone from their neighbourhood.

However, Raghuram who had been silently watching the photos and his father’s reactions to them did a double take on seeing the girl.

He plucked out the photos from his old man’s hands and stared intently.“I remember this girl Nana. She used to come to my room very often to play with me. And I remember, she had this same rag doll, with its head hanging by some threads” smiled Raghuram, as he pointed out the rag doll in the photograph.

Suddenly Nana’s throat felt parched. “Revati, bring me some water”, he felt goosebumps on his hands, as he suddenly remembered the rag doll which had swung from the ceiling in the attic and hit him on his face.

With shivering hands, he reached for the box of medicines lying nearby and took out his hypertension medication. He gulped the tablet with the water offered by Revati.

“But Raghuram. I never saw any such girl entering our house, at least not when I was at home” exclaimed a puzzled Nana.

“Yes, Aai also said the same thing to me. In fact, she used to say that I talk to myself like a madman. She felt that I was play acting. But here is that girl!”

For some moments both, father and son stared at each other, transfixed by what Raghuram had just said.

Then Nana grabbed Raghuram’s hand, “Take me to the attic. I want to show you something”.

Raghuram supported his father, as both of them went towards the attic.“Revati, please prepare for dinner. We are coming back in a few minutes”

Reaching the top, Raghuram put on the lights. Both of them entered inside.

“That day, I entered the attic and was trying to see what all is kept here since I had come up after many months. And, while walking in this very corner, see there…”, and pointed upwards towards the ceiling.

It was empty!

Raghuram looked at his father with a puzzled look.“But…but, it was here only. Where is it gone?” Nana got very agitated.“What, Nana? What did you see?” Raghuram was now losing his patience with his old man.

“Raghuram I saw the same rag doll! The same one with its head hanging by a few threads. But where is it now? I did not remove it. Has it fallen somewhere”, so saying Nana started searching on the dust-laden floor? But it was nowhere to be seen.

“Leave it, Nana. Why search for a useless doll. I am hungry. Let’s go for dinner”

“Ok, let’s go. But it’s surprising, isn’t it? Perhaps Mani….Mani carried it away?” Nana was still puzzled by the mysterious disappearance.

After putting off the attic light and locking it, both of them descended below.

As they passed a room, they heard Rahul talking to someone. “I have no one to play. Will you come often? Shall we play hide and seek?”

Eager to see whom Rahul was talking to, Raghuram entered the room, followed by his father.

“Won’t you introduce us to your new friend, Rahul. Who are you playing with?” asked Raghuram.

“Later Baba. She is hiding now”.

Smiling at Rahul, amused with his play-acting, both turned to leave; there in the corner where Rahul was staring, was the same rag doll…with its head attached to its body by a few threads!

Both father and son stood dumbstruck as they saw Mani in the window, hissing in the same direction, where the doll lay!Oh! What entity had the camera let loose?

The Nene’s; or rather the wife, now stay in far-off Kolhapur. The mother still feels extreme remorse at sacrificing her daughter in her mad quest for a son, which remained unfulfilled.

Her husband, Shripatrao Nene had a horrific accident during their journey from Kankavli to Kolhapur when the bus in which they were travelling passed very near to some trees, and one of the branches got caught in the window in front of him, causing a whiplash action decapitating his head, but held from falling off, by a few muscles. Like a rag doll!

Fiction, Mystery

A court case… fiction

First shared on #ArtoonsInn

It was time. Soon the courtroom clerk would come to me, open my arms with a creak, which has developed over a period of time, and withdraw the required documents from my belly.

From the time, many years back, when I was brought here fresh from the Godrej factory, I have hardly moved from the corner. But this corner offers me a vantage point and an uninterrupted view of the entire shenanigans which go on, inside this spacious though dark room, in the name of justice. So what if my legs are wobbly over a period of time.

Slowly people started filing in. The case had been in the news once again since the last few months, and not without reason.

Mr. Sinha, the state prosecutor started, “Mr. Prakhar Singh stands accused of murdering his wife, the late Mrs. Sheeladevi, 17 years back and Mr. Salil Singh, his son is the sole witness to the vile murder.”

“I would now like to call, Mr. Salil Singh to the witness box.”, Mr. Sinha continued.

The judge, Mr. Harbhajan Singh granted him permission.

“Mr. Salil Singh, you have accused your biological father of the grimmest crime. What do you have to say?”, queried the state prosecutor.

I could see, all eyes in the courtroom following the young Mr. Salil, as he stared at his father for a long time.

Then turning towards the judge, he said, “Your honour, my father is a murderer. He murdered my mother as she was planning to leave him, tired of his continuous beatings. She had made all arrangements, but…”

“Objection, Your Honour.”, Mr. Shivdasani, the defence lawyer interrupted. Though small in stature, his hawk-like features and the baritone granted gravitas to his personality. Even the Judge was in awe of this cunning man.

“This young man is accusing my client without any proof. He has already grabbed the ancestral property from his father with the help of some unscrupulous relatives, but it is not enough. He now wants to totally destroy my clients name, nay, finish him off totally. if you grant permission, I would like to cross examine him”

“Objection granted, please proceed.”, the Judge acquiesced.

“Mr. Salil, you accuse your father of the most heinious crime, the murder of your mother, Mrs. Sheeladevi who disappeared 17 years back. Did you not yourself say that she was planning to leave him, due to the alleged continuous beatings by your father?”, said the defence lawyer, as he moved towards the witness box.

“Mr. Salil, may I ask you your age.”

“I am 20 years old, Sir.”, replied Salil.

“Please note, Sir”, Mr. Shivdasani addressed the judge.

“20 years old. Which means, you were just 3 years old when this occurred. Mr. Sheeladevi abandoned you, her only child, due to some alleged beatings which were never proved. For all you know, she must be in the US of A, enjoying herself, married to some American. And your father took care of you and raised you till you connived with your mother’s brother to grab the property and drove out your father.”

A gasp went round the court, as people started talking amongst themselves. Even I was confused; who was speaking the truth and who was lying. But Mr. Salil himself looked at peace with himself.

“Sir, I am not accusing my father now, after all these years. When I was a three year old boy I had said, ‘Baba thho…thho maa’, but I couldn’t do anything else at that time…”

As Salil said this, I was transported to the past, in these very premises, when a small boy was crying and saying, “Thho…thho, Baba thho…thho maa’, but nothing could be proved.

Mrs. Sheeladevi’s disappearence was a much talked about subject that time. Her brother, Ramniranjan, had accused Mr. Prakhar Singh of killing his sister. His accusations were based on the complaints of regular beatings from his sister and of course, the accusation by Salil.

Prakhar Singh maintained that she had simply left the house and disappeared.

Her empty purse had been found in the garbage bin outside their house, empty. Their car had been found in the city airport parking lot. But after a long trial, with Mrs. Sheeladevi still missing, the case went unsolved and was closed due to lack of evidence.

Suddenly a hand entered my belly and I was brought to the present.

“When I was a three year old boy, I had cried ‘Baba shot maa’ but I couldn’t do anything else. But there is a new development due to which I am now determined to see the harshest punishment for this man, I regret he is my biological father”, Salil said, his eyes watering up.

“Cut out the emotional blackmail, Mr. Salil. Whatever it is, place the facts before the court, don’t waste everyone’s time.”, the defence lawyer exclaimed.

“6 months back, I decided to renovate the ancestral home. After finishing the interiors, I started the re-construction of the swimming pool. It was emptied out, the tiling was removed, the digging started and…and…”, and Salil went silent.

“My Lord, the accuser is now certainly wasting our precious time. Mr. Salil, why are you bent on taking us through this convoluted construction process. Please come to the point”, Mr. Shivdasani thundered.

“And I found human remains.” A hush descended on the room. Suddenly all went quiet. I could see sweat running down the temples of Mr. Prakhar.

“I called my uncle and told him, ‘Mama, I think I might have found my mom.’

A flustered defence lawyer was combative, “Isn’t it your ancestral property? Isn’t your clan one of the martial clans of India? The human remains could have been any of the past enemies of your clan. We are not here to try your long dead ancestors, are we?”

“Objection, your honour.” Now it was the turn of the State Prosecutor.

“My learned friend is not letting my client speak. He is interrupting at an important juncture.” Mr. Sinha, who had been an observer for quite a while, was now suddenly active.

“I would now like to cross examine Dr. Rebello.”

I couldn’t understand the role of a Doctor or his significance to the case at hand. All the documents held in my belly did not add anything of value to my thinking. Neither my presence in the court for such a huge period of time has given me any inkling of how a lawyer’s mind works.

So here I was, just an observer to the proceedings. Just like so many others who were not so handicapped.

Dr. Rebello, though an old person with shaking hands, seemed jovial. When prompted for his name, he replied, “The name is Rebello, Julio Rebello”. Perhaps a fan of Bond, James Bond.

“And what is your area of expertise, Doctor?”, asked the state prosecutor.

“A Forensic Pathologist and Anthropologist. A Forensic Pathologist is one who studies the dead and the reasons they die. While a Forensic Anthropologist is one who works with skeletons and decomposed human remains and analyses the remains to get information about the victim and the cause death…”, the Doctor would have gone on and on, but was rudely interrupted by Mr. Shivdasani.

“I object, your honour. With all due respect, the honourable state prosecutor is doing everything to delay proceedings by bringing in witnesses who ramble on without reaching any conclusion”, he thundered.

“Objection overruled!”, for once the Judge overcame his admiration of the defence lawyer and asked the public prosecutor to continue.

“Doctor, please stick to the questions being asked and please reply to the point. We have spent enough time in this profession and know the difference between a Forensic Pathologist and an Anthropologist. So what do you have to say about the skeleton found in the property of Mr. Salil and which was brought to you by the Police?”, asked the State Prosecutor.

This time the Doctor did not waste any time and answered, “The skeleton was of a female who died in her young age, about 25-30 years old, she had already given birth before she died, she had been shot through her head and all this had occurred between 15-20 years back.” Everyone sat back as they processed this information given at breakneck speed.

“Whoa, whoa, Doctor you went too fast this time. I agree all these details can be determined by your fraternity but that she had already given birth before her death…I mean, do you take us to be fools”, who else, Mr. Shivdasani questioned.

His booming baritone did not have any effect on the Doctor who replied with a straight face, “You have put me in a quandary. If I agree with you, I will be put in jail for contempt of court, but if I disagree, I would be committing perjury.”

The court erupted in laughter at this quip from the Doctor. “Order, Order!”, I saw the judge indulge in his favourite dialogue and saw him hammering the gavel. Oh, how I envy Mr. Gavel, who is much more actively involved in the court proceedings!

The good Doctor then proceeded to enlighten, “When a woman gives birth, her pelvis is dilated. And this is how I deduced that the skeleton was of a woman who had given birth before she had been murdered.”

“Ok, this is all very well, but how does this prove that the skeleton was of Mrs. Sheeladevi? The court accepts nothing but proof to convict someone”, the defence lawyer was still defiant. For once, I agreed with the cunning lawyer.

“Yes, you are right. I cannot say whether it was the skeleton of Mrs. Sheeladevi or not”, the Doctor went silent, for once.

“Don’t worry, Sir. My next witness is the Forensic scientist, Dr. Paneerselvam.” The State Prosecutor was now in full flow.

I was now totally immersed in this case.

“Dr. Paneerselvam! What have you deduced on this case”, the prosecutor asked.

“Sir, I extracted the DNA from the tooth of the skeleton. I processed it and I took a comparative DNA sample from Mr. Salil here. There was a hundred percent match.”

“That’s it, My Lord. That conclusively proves that the accused, Mr. Prakhar Singh is guilty of murdering his wife, the mother of his son. Her only crime was to think of leaving him, of escaping his daily beatings and think of building a new life for herself. He deserves the strictest punishment, he should be hanged until death.” So saying, the State Prosecutor occupied his seat.

Happy that now justice will be served, I was keenly observing the judge, when that man, Mr. Shivdasani thundered, “Ok, it seems it is certainly proved that Mrs. Sheeladevi was murdered, but it doesn’t at all prove that my client, Mr. Prakhar did it. Where is the proof and the court accepts only proof before convicting any accused.”

Considering Mr. Shivdasani’s reputation, I was ready for this legal battle to drag on for days, when, “It’s alright, Mr. Shivdasani. You have fought well but I am now tired.”

Trying to understand who was talking, I saw Mr. Prakhar Singh getting up.

“Please come into the box, Mr. Prakhar.”

“Yes, it is true that I killed her. Yes, I did it in a fit of rage. I loved her, I wanted to possess her but she…she wanted to leave. And she never told me. When I came to know, I confronted her but she was adamant. I lost my cool, I shot her in front of Salil…I am sorry, Salil.”

That day, I was convinced, ‘Sins can be buried away but can never be forgotten’.

***

Authors note –

  1. Inspired from real incident.
  2. No laws referred
  3. Court functioning mostly sourced from Bollywood movies.
  4. Few legal terms Googled.
  5. Doctor’s joke googled.
  6. Written from the point of view of a cupboard, always seen in the background in any filmy court
Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

The feast

First published on #ArtoonsInn

The phone rang shrilly disturbing the Saturday afternoon siesta of Mr. and Mrs. Braganza. The Mrs. answered.

“Hello…oh hi, Maria. How are you?…Oh, a feast. So nice of you…yes, yes, we will certainly come tomorrow.”

“Who was it, Julia?”, asked Tony or Mr. Braganza.

“Mrs. Robinson has planned a feast tomorrow noon. She has invited us.”

“Sure. We will go”, Tony stretched as he yawned. Then added, “But Mr. Robinson is not seen since yesterday. Is he there tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. Even I was wondering”, replied Julia.

“Who else has she invited? If it’s a feast, there would be more invitees.”

“Yes, there would be, of course. But I didn’t ask.”

Then with a twinkle in her eyes, added “I hope she treats us to her pork preparation…or Kheema. Yummy”.

“Stop it, will you. You are making me hungry already.”, Tony admonished his wife playfully.

“Evening, I am going to Seb’s home. Will be back by 9.00-9.30.”

“You and Sebastian. Two sides of the same coin. A coin which guzzles alcohol. Can’t you control your urges on atleast one Saturday?”, and then added, “Spend atleast one Saturday evening with me, Mr. Braganza. See how I keep you entertained.”

Tony pushed her away. Nothing ever came between him, Seb and the Saturday evening bottle.

Most Saturday’s, once Tony left for Seb’s home, Julia rushed to her rendevous with her paramour. She tried to reach him but his phone was switched off.

—-

Mrs. Robinson woke up early on Sunday. A few select family friends were invited for lunch and she had no help in arranging everything. She desired no help.

Bad luck, Rem, her husband, was going to miss this feast.

The previous evening she had arranged the finest wine from the neighborhood brewery. The friends loved the Kheema (mincemeat) and she was not going to disappoint them.

She decided to have her bath later, once she had prepared the mutton dishes. As she took out the meat from the deep freezer, she remembered her husband’s love for her cooking, the way he slurped his fingers like a child. The image brought a smile to her face. So sad, he was going to miss this feast.

She stripped the meat from the bones, her hands shaking with the effort. Most of the meat went into the grinder which strained with the effort. But Julia loved her pieces and some were saved for her.

Mixing the masalas, she cooked up a delicious menu in a trance. In two hours she was done, sweating profusely.

Time for the bath. She indulged herself in the bathtub, scrubbing her hands vigorously with the scrubber and soap. She didn’t want herself to smell of meat in front of her guests.

Finally, with dollops of makeup, she was ready to face her guests.

The doorbell rang. It was the Fernandes’ couple. The customary air kisses were exchanged.

The Pinto’s were the next to arrive followed by the Braganza’s.

Then Maria, aka Mrs. Robinson, started her welcome speech.

“Welcome everyone. First of all I thank you, for keeping everything aside and honouring me with your presence…”

Julia intervened, “Oh, Maria, no one in their right senses would miss your culinary delights. Don’t worry, we are here for our selfish interests”, and the house dissolved into a bout of boisterous laughter.

“Hey, but we are certainly missing that scoundrel, Rem. Where has he gone into hiding”, asked Mr. Pinto.

“Oh, did I not tell you. He had to go to Mumbai for some urgent office work on Friday morning. I spoke to him yesterday, he should be back tomorrow evening. But don’t worry about him, he asked me to go ahead with this feast. He said, he would be there with us in spirit.” Then Maria added, a smile lining her eyes, “You know, of the liquid kind”.

“Naughty boy. Let me call him.” Charles Fernandez fished out his phone.

“Switched off. I tell you Maria, he is upto no good. Are you sure he is on official duty? Smells more like an affair, doesn’t it Tony?”

Tony guffawed loudly as he jokingly reprimanded Charles, “Charlie boy. Do you want to be thrown out of the house? Accusing the owner of the house of dirty deeds, you scoundrel. Say sorry to the high command.”

“Oh, sorry Mrs. Robinson. Not a word out of me now, no bad mouthing Rem. Now I will do that only after partaking the feast which you have conjured up for us.”, and so the banter continued till it was lunch time.

At the lunch table, the couples sat near each other. An empty wine glass, placed near the plates, gave an inkling of the spirit to follow a sumptuous meal. The aroma of the Kheema was already wafting from the kitchen, permeating their senses.

“Umm, Maria…my stomach is full, just the aroma is enough”, said Julia.

“Oh, no, no. That will certainly not do, my friend. All this effort is for you”, smiled Maria.

“But why are you standing, Maria. Join us.”

“I always fast on a Sunday. Don’t worry about me. I would be satiated once you have had your fill”, Maria answered.

“Not fair. We forgot. You should not have kept the Feast on a Sunday.”

But soon, everyone was feasting on the sumptuous Kheema spread. Oh, how Maria loved those slurping sounds made by her guests.

“Move over Tony. I am going to feed my friend Julia, some of the best mutton pieces.”

And she just pushed Tony out of his seat. Everyone laughed as Maria occupied the neighbouring chair and started feeding Julia.

Everyone cheered as one mutton piece disappeared followed by the next.

Suddenly Maria’s feeding took in a violent frenzy. She was now force feeding Julia.

“Eat…eat him. Eat Rem. Don’t you like it. I am serving your lover to you on a platter. Isn’t he tasty enough?”, she screamed as the guests started vomiting one after the other.

Fiction

A story on Christmas eve

First shared on #ArtoonsInn

A most selfish girl


In the town of Costashire, lived little Rimona with her parents Richard and Mona.
Richard, the Duke and the Duchess loved their little Rimona and spoilt her silly with innumerable presents.
All the attention went to little Rimona’s head and she turned into a most selfish child.
She thought everything belonged to her.


Every Christmas she wished for the most exotic presents and every Christmas Santa was generous enough to grant her every wish. But he decided that something had to be done about her selfishness.


But how?


This year Rimona wanted to meet Santa himself as her Christmas gift. Santa informed Rimona’s father that he would meet her but she would have to come to the north pole by his reindeer pulled sleigh.


The happy day arrived. Rimona dressed in a flowery lily white dress and sat in the sleigh.
Rimona took in the sights and sounds of the journey with wonder in her eyes.


She saw a boy happily working on a bench with his carpenter father. The tools were old and he had to work hard to shape the wood.


She saw a girl selling flowers in the market, her clothes were torn and a smile adorned her beautiful face.


She saw twins outside a bakery, looking longingly at the decorated cakes inside. They were surely hungry but they walked away.


As she neared the pole, she saw a child freezing in the cold, as it’s mother held it to her bosom.


At the end of the journey, Rimona met Santa happily and asked for her goodies.


On her return journey she had made new friends, for they had met a child Santa.


“Papa, giving gave me more joy than receiving. Thank you for my greatest gift.”, and she planted a kiss on her happy parents cheeks.


Fiction, humour

Rattled

First posted on #ArtoonsInn…

The clock struck twelve. The repeated hammering of the ancient gong dislogded timid Tony from his hiding place in the clock and in his hurry, he fell right into the path of Mrs. Batliwala. She screamed in terror, let go of the bone china bowl of hot soup and gave out a blood curdling scream. 

The shrill scream reverberated in Tony’s ears and he tried to scamper away and found the nearest dark recess to hide himself. Unfortunately it turned out to be the ample pyjamas of old Mr. Batliwala who jumped up from the rocking chair in fright. The beer glass toppled over, Mr. Batliwala pushed against the wooden table and lost his balance. As he fell backwards, Tony struggled to break free of the pyjamas and just managed to avoid getting squashed under the ample bottom of Mr. Batliwala.

Timid Tony rushed to his hideout, the drainage pipe just outside the verandah of the Batliwala’s. This part of the neighborhood was the haunt of Dirty Purry, the evil feline. But the noon wasn’t the bread earning hour of Dirty Purry, hence Tony was safe for now. Safe with his family, whom he had settled inside.

“What did you get for lunch, you good for nothing fellow?”, screamed a shrewish Mrs. Tony.

“I…I…I…” squeaked poor Tony.

“What I…I…I… you are just not cut out for the man race. My parents ruined my life by marrying me off to a nincompoop like you. And me…how the hell did I fall for your sqeaky clean image?” She continued to stare at her husband scornfully.

“Learn something from your brother, Rancid Ronny. Such a foul smelling fellow living in the old neighborhood of the gutters. But see, he hasn’t failed to feed his equally caustic wife, Rita during his entire lifetime.” Mrs. Tony was in a belligerent mood tonight.

“And look at you. No capacity to get some cheese in the pipe but can’t control the carnal urges! Who the hell will feed these 21 twintuplets?”

As if on cue, all the twintuplets started singing a high pitched song of hunger. “Squee…squee”, they cried out in unison.

Unable to bear it any longer, Tony pressed his ears with his forelimbs, then held his head while closing his eyes tightly.

“Yes, I knew that. You will now feign depression. Don’t you know, the great Woman says that there is no such thing as depression. Mental health issues are all hocus-pocus. Everyone wants to run their own shop and so do you.

“Here, take this bamboo strip and discipline your hyperactive brood. While I go out and do what is needed to feed them”. Mrs. Tony was quite egoistic about her ability to subdue her hubby and provide for the family.

Tony watched her retreating form and heaved a sign of relief. Once she was out of sight, he jiggled his tiny bottom and stretched out beside his brood of twintuplets.

Soon, he was assured of something to eat.

Fiction

Coming soon…a Thriller anthology you will love

#Project3 #TitleReveal #BookCoverReveal

Hi all, 

I am a contributing writer in this exciting venture by The Hive.

The Hive is a non-traditional publishing collective. The first anthology was Route 13: Highway to Hell, a horror anthology. 

The anthology experienced tremendous success. More than 200 copies were consumed by eager readers. It might seem like a small number, but it’s not. In the world of self-publishing, these are great numbers, especially for a brand new entity like The Hive. Route 13 topped the horror charts on Amazon new releases for a whopping 6 weeks in a row and remained in top 3 for more than 12.   

Now, The Hive launched #Project3. They invited submissions and nearly 50 entries were received.

All the entries were subjected to a stringent two-round selection process and SEVENTEEN stories were selected to be part of #Project3. I am elated that my story is a part of this exciting anthology.

#Project3 is ‘An Anthology to Thrill,’ and the seventeen stories are going to do exactly that – thrill you, the readers. It has stories about scorned lovers, devious criminals, supercops, sleuths, violence, blood, danger, suspense and, murder. You are going to enjoy this. 

Delighted and proud to present to you the title, cover and release date of #Project3. 

                        BLOOD RUNS COLD 

                    Book Release: 17/07/2020

Why July 17th? Well, it is a very significant day for crime and mystery. 

1. The Romanov family were murdered

2. Erle Stanley Gardner, author of Perry Mason, was born on that day

3. The 100-year war ended with the battle of Castille

4. July 17th is the Day of International Criminal Justice. 

I hope ‘Blood Runs Cold’ gets the same support and love which ‘Route 13: Highway to Hell.’ enjoyed. 

Enjoy!

Yatindra Tawde

Fiction, humour, Uncategorized

Loaded Driving, hic…

Driving around, loaded, had another connotation. It meant, driving under the influence, which resulted in a spell in the lockup. In many cases it is very dangerous for the people sleeping on the road side, as some Cine Stars and a few rich people with their fancy cars, are very well aware. But here, my subject is different. It involves the latest craze, driverless cars. Or rather, the heavy weight category, the trucks. Yes, driverless trucks!!

Yesterday the first driverless truck was put into service after umpteen trials, in, where else, the United States of America! And imagine what would be its cargo. Hundreds of bottles of beer!! Why would anybody take a chance with beer? Why risk invaluable beer for the inaugural driverless drive of a truck. I mean, they could have used some other cargo, as a bait. Maybe, useless stuff like vegetables or grains. But no, they had to transport beer. If, God forbid, the driverless truck had met with an accident. Then all the madira would have gone down the drain, to bestow unexpected happy hours to the denizens of the underworld. But surprise! The driverless truck had a smooth journey to its destination, 200 km. away at a very safe speed of 83 km/hr. The task of transportation without a driver is achieved by a placement of assorted cameras and sensors all around the outside of the truck, giving it a 360 degree exposure. The sensors constantly sense the distance of the truck from any other physical object in its vicinity and the cameras give it vision. In the inaugural journey there was a driver, who remained in a non-driving position well away from the steering wheel. His function was to take over, only in case of an emergency or in case the various auto functions of the truck went kaput. Ultimately, he was proved to be an extra where the hero of the day was the driverless truck, gently escorting the coy beer from the factory to the waiting hands of the beer-bellied denizens of America.

But I shudder to even contemplate about the same scenario in India. At least, such fragile cargos , like beer bottles will not be transported through the driverless trucks. For one there are too many desperadoes in the prohibition states who will find out all the weaknesses of such transport. They will immediately grasp the weakness that such trucks will stop in case they come in front of it. And by the time the road is cleared again, the beer bottles would all have been escorted out from the back of the truck leading to the celebration of the happiest hours by all the forced non-drinking drunkards. So let’s see how the driverless transport story unfolds in India.

Yatindra Tawde

Fiction, Uncategorized

Lunar settlement

Year – 2080…Like every morning, the digital newspaper is delivered to the pod of Mr. Lal. The robot butler, Hargreaves, brings the newspaper to Mr. Lal who is just getting up from bed. He puts on his Google glasses, connects the digital paper to the glasses by Li-fi which is 100 times speedier than that of wifi. For the uninitiated, LiFi is the use of the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit information at very high speeds (thanks to Google). Its been 10 years since lifi has replaced wifi across the globe. An advertisement catches the eye of Mr. Lal. It says, “A second home for your loved ones in the lap of nature, where man first set foot on the Moon. Exquisite property covered by a solar panelled dome, providing life-giving solar power to the residential cum farming plot inside. 25% discount for the first 100 applications” followed by the contact details. Mr. Lal is very excited and he calls his wife through his telepathic skull implant. The advertisement images and videos are telepathically transferred to the mind of his wife and she too is excited. This advancement in science (telepathic transfer) has been both, a boon and a bane. It has boosted faster communication but at the same time, humans have lost their speaking ability. Just a week back there had been a research published, which said that the vocal cords are slowly getting weaker and in a few generations, may be totally unusable.
Though construction started on the moon 40 years back, it is just 15-16 years since residential complexes started to be built since lot of preparatory work needed to be done, before opening up the moon for ordinary people. Like in the 20th century, when America became the first nation to set foot on the moon, in the 21st century, it was the Americans who first started the construction work on the lunar surface. A huge hue and cry was raised by the other nations on Mother Earth, but Americans were bent upon exploiting the lunar landscape. They did a lot of preparatory work, in terms of providing the right amount of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide along with Nitrogen, by building closed domes under which trial farming was first tried. There were a few failures during the initial period but the Americans are a stubborn people who stuck to the task at hand. Finally, within 10 years, they were able to make a breakthrough, by converting the miniscule amount of hydrogen under the lunar surface, into water by combining with the supplied Oxygen. Though this water was miniscule, the genetically modified seedlings which were developed in the space laboratories, started thriving in the miniscule water and…crops were successfully harvested on the surface of the moon for the first time! This news excited the world scientific community so much, that they started putting pressure on their respective governments to join the American initiative. Soon India became the 2nd nation to land on the moon. And that’s when the fun started!
The Indian government started telecasting the excerpts from the scientists day to day activities. A fall out of this, was the growing interest of the Builder community. Recently the building construction activity in the major cities of India had almost come to a standstill due to a paucity of profitable land in the cities. They had ventured to the tier 2 & 3 towns but had exhausted the potential by exploiting whatever land was available. And there were the usual roadblocks faced, due to inadequate infrastructure in the tier 2 cities. The builder community was hugely loaded, but while some of them had invested their monies in other ventures, there were a few who were itching for new projects, wherever available. And the moon surface presented a new challenge to a few of them. It got the best among them, Mr. Kriplani, thinking on ways to overcome the final hurdle.
So the next time, the Indian shuttle lifted off for the moon, Mr. Kriplani joined the astronauts, after all he had contacts in the highest echelons of the Indian government. Upon landing, he had a tough time adjusting to the reduced gravity of he moon, inspite of the advances made in the space suits. While the professional astronauts were walking comfortably, he was finding it difficult to keep his feet grounded. For Mr. Kriplani, these were but , momentary hurdles, which could easily be overcome by his inexhaustible will power. After all, he had reached a position of immense power, only due to his will power and a never say die attitude.
Mr. Kriplani liked what he saw. Where others saw a desolate landscape, he saw unexplored potential. Where others saw a dull, dark space, he saw a bustling night life. His mind was made up and he had immense persuasive capability to turn, even the most stubborn nay sayers, to his line of thinking. And thus was born, his pet project, “The Moon Arcade”.
This was the very advertisement the Lal’s had seen in the newspaper, which got them excited. They decided to contact the holograph , which was accessible to them through the QR Code on the advertisement. They didn’t waste any time, as soon as they scanned the code, a 3 D hologram of Mr. Kriplani himself, was projected in their room. In his gentle but firm voice, Mr. Kriplani started explaining the salient features of his dream project.
“The Moon Arcade is exactly that. Arcade is a long arched building. And the site of The Moon Arcade is covered by a huge dome. But this dome is not visible, since the inside surface of the dome is covered by a Nano crystal sheet on which high fidelity lighting gives an illusion of the sky. And this lighting is timed to the earth hours, thus the light changes from early morning sunshine to the evening dusk and culminates with the night time starlit sky, which is dominated by the beautiful globe of the earth. This feature itself is worth the money you will pay since you won’t feel that you have left the earth.
Magnetic flooring for maintaining the gravitational equilibrium. You just have to wear the magnetic slippers which are synchronized with the floor.
The Moon Arcade is a huge complex, consisting of 100 twin bungalows, with each bungalow having its own 1/2 acre garden. And the garden is real, made up of real flowering as well as vegetable plants. The plants themselves are genetically modified versions of those available on earth, developed by the scientists in space. Whereas the water for these plants is made locally on the moon.
We have not provided any swimming pool here due to the exorbitant price that this luxury demands on the moon and would have made the entire project unviable for us as well as for discerning customers like you. Instead we provide many unique amenities, which we would be happy to let you experience before you actually buy the Moon property.
How to reach there – daily shuttle service to the moon from the Sriharikota space station. Starts early morning and reaches the moon in 24 hours. The high speed being made possible by the new revolutionary hydrogen based fuel, making space travel economical for commercial flights.
Charges for site visit – only 1/4th of any space tourist flight expenses.
The Lal’s lapped up this offer. The day arrived, the Lal’s reached the Sriharikota space centre from their house in Mumbai, travelling by their Hondafly, a very fuel efficient flying car developed recently by Honda. Immediately on arrival they were ushered into a plush lobby, where their Iris scan and genetic profiling was done. A quick medical scan later, they were both passed for the journey to the moon. They were then taken into a capsule, in which they had to get into special suits, which were very much different and quite light as compared to the very heavy suits, which the very first astronauts wore in the 20th century. As their helmets were bolted in, both of them felt a surge of excitement. They were then strapped into their respective pods, so that the initial force of the space shuttle gets dissipated to some extent. The pods were then closed, and a soothing gas was pumped into it, which kept them conscious but paralyzed all their other movements. In no time, the space shuttle was in stratosphere, and the final thrust of its engines freed it from the earth pull. The Engineers on the flight then released the Lal’s from their pod. As they stepped out, their suit enabled them to stand instead of float. While they saw some minor objects like pens floating due to the zero gravity, most of the other things inside, were firmly attached. Nearing the window, they saw the beautiful arc of the earth, rapidly going farther and farther away as the spacecraft rushed towards the moon. After some time they got bored and sauntered back to their pod to rest. In the meanwhile, the shuttle settled into the moon orbit. On approaching the landing site, the engines gave a final thrust and thus started the descent.
Upon landing, the Lal’s were taken into a Relief Chamber whose sole purpose was to make them used to the changed environment. Though man had tried to modify everything on the moon, to make it more earth-like, he couldn’t have matched the perfection achieved by God. After spending close to 1hour in the Relief Chamber, to acclimatize themselves with the surroundings, the Lal’s were led into a underground passageway, which took them to the “The Moon Arcade”.
As they emerged out of the passageway, the bright light took their breath away. Like it had been explained to them by Mr. Kriplani’s hologram, it did not appear that a dome covered the whole complex. Man had succeeded in creating an illusion of the blue skies and the story book type of cottages on the moon land below, added to the fairy tale setting. And the gardens in front of each bungalow cottage, added to the splendour.
But what the Lal’s were interested in, was the added attractions, of which Mr. Kriplani had given only a brief idea. On probing their accompanying guide about the same, they were enthusiastically led to another underground passageway. All this while they had been in their normal clothing, since all along, they were in a controlled atmosphere, whether in the Relief Chamber or inside the dome. Now, once inside the passageway, they were taken to the “Moon Age” where they were given a spacesuit to wear, which was quite light weight. Once they were securely inside their spacesuit, they were led to the door, which opened to the magical world of the moon.
Once they were outside, the desolate and dark landscape of the moon was a dampener. But what immediately caught their attention, was the Moon mobile, a 20th century era vehicle which the Americans had brought during one of their Apollo missions. To their surprise, they were made to sit in it, and taken on a ride through the pot holed landscape. After enjoying this ride for half an hour, they were taken to the landing site of the Apollo mission, which had first landed on the moon. They could see a prototype of the landing craft, the US flag planted there, as well as the first footprint of man.
After this they were taken to a huge structure, inside which the entire flooring with covered with soft mattresses. This was known as the “Floating Pool”. Once inside, their weight enhanced leggings were removed and they were asked to roam around the structure. As they took their first step, due to the reduced gravitational pull of the moon, they themselves experienced the slow motion walk, which they had always witnessed being taken by the 20th century astronauts. They enjoyed this freedom so much, they were trying to jump and run, their jumps easily touching 25-30 feet in height. For the first time in their life, they could manage to do slow motion cartwheels and they enjoyed all this with child like enthusiasm. By the time, they were tired, they had spent almost 2 hours doing all these antics.
Once they reached the site office of “The Moon Arcade”, they had made up their mind to sign on the dotted line. They were now the proud owners of a Bungalow cottage in “The Moon Arcade”!!
Friends, this scenario may be a reality, if not in 60 years, but surely in the next 100 years.
Yatin